Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

UNITED STATES v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

November 10, 1988

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants


Thomas F. Hogan, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: HOGAN

THOMAS F. HOGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 In this action for permanent injunctive relief and declaratory judgment, the United States of America seeks to enjoin the District of Columbia; Marion S. Barry, Jr., Mayor of the District of Columbia; William Plaut, Administrator of the District of Columbia Jail; and Hallem H. Williams, Jr., Director of the District of Columbia Department of Corrections, from refusing to accept into the District of Columbia Jail, or any other District of Columbia Department of Corrections facility, prisoners who have been sentenced by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

 On October 4, 1988, the District of Columbia announced that it would no longer accept newly sentenced prisoners into the District of Columbia Department of Corrections. The District undertook this extraordinary action in response to two federal court orders issued on September 29, 1988. In the first order, Judge William Bryant ruled that the 1,694 inmate population ceiling at the District of Columbia Jail may not be exceeded. Campbell v. McGruder, Civil Action No. 71-1462 (D.D.C.). In the second order, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia lifted a stay of, and thereby affirmed, the August 1, 1988 order of Judge June Green requiring, inter alia, the District to cease transferring inmates to the Central Facility at Lorton until the population of Central returns to the 1,166 inmate population ceiling set by a consent decree. Twelve John Does v. District of Columbia, D.C. Civil Action No. 80-2136.

 The District's alarming response to the recent Court orders represents the unfortunate culmination of a prison crisis that has plagued the District of Columbia, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the federal courts in the District of Columbia for decades. By literally barring the jail-house doors, the District has finally forced the United States to bring to this Court the ultimate issue of identifying the locus of responsibility for housing adult male prisoners sentenced by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

 The United States filed its complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief and its motions for a temporary restraining order and for a preliminary injunction on October 6, 1988. After an emergency hearing, the Court denied plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order. On October 12, 1988, plaintiff moved for consolidation of the hearing on the preliminary injunction with the trial on the merits, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(a) (2), and amended its pleadings to seek a permanent injunction. The Court granted plaintiff's motion pursuant to its bench opinion of October 17, 1988.

 To obtain equitable relief in the present action, the United States must succeed on the merits and show that it is threatened with harm for which it has no adequate remedy at law. Reed Enterprises v. Corcoran, 122 U.S. App. D.C. 387, 354 F.2d 519, 522 (D.C. Cir. 1965); 11 C. Wright, A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2942, at 368-69 (1973). Since October 3, 1988, the United States has accepted over 200 D.C. prisoners into federal prisons, eight of whose sentences have already expired. The prospective infusion of similar numbers of prisoners ad infinitum into a federal prison system that is currently operating at 157% of design capacity (as compared to the District system which is currently operating at 114% of design capacity) clearly constitutes threatened injury for which the United States has no adequate remedy at law.

 The Court's current inquiry thus focuses on the merits of the case. That is, under D.C. Code § 24-425, must the District continue to accept and provide for prisoners duly designated by the Attorney General to the District of Columbia Department of Corrections; or must the Attorney General house and maintain D.C. prisoners, for some indefinite period of time, upon the District's unilateral refusal to accept properly assigned prisoners into its facilities. It is the decision of this Court that under D.C. Code § 24-425: (1) the District of Columbia must continue to accept and maintain prisoners duly designated by the Attorney General to the District of Columbia Department of Corrections, provided that such designation would not cause the D.C. facilities to exceed population limits set by the United States District Court; (2) the Attorney General must retain custody of said prisoners whenever all facilities within the District of Columbia Department of Corrections meet or exceed the court ordered population caps such that no facility exists within the District of Columbia to serve as an available, suitable, and appropriate place of confinement; and (3) the District of Columbia must immediately undertake all feasible measures to provide space for all adult male prisoners sentenced hereafter by the Superior Court.

 BACKGROUND

 In an effort to bring some cohesion to the byzantine labyrinth of the recurrent prison problem and resultant litigation, the Court has reviewed the extensive court records, consultant reports, opinions, and orders in prior related actions. A brief historical overview of the District of Columbia's chronic prison problem sheds light on the parties' conflicting statutory interpretations and places the current crisis in context.

 The District of Columbia's correctional facilities have been the subject of public and judicial scrutiny for over 150 years. See, e.g., S. McConville, A Review of the Correctional Policies of the District of Columbia 1 (1986) (surveying the overcrowding and dilapidated conditions in the District's prisons and Jail from 1825 through 1986). During the past two decades, the federal courts in the District of Columbia have heard several ongoing class actions challenging the overcrowding and deteriorating conditions at the various institutions comprising the District of Columbia Department of Corrections. The suits have been marked with repeated judicial orders, consent decrees, and contempt citations exposing the District's mismanagement of its prison system and attempting to compel the District's compliance with laws, court orders, and consent decrees.

 As chronicled by Judges Bryant and Green, at the root of the most recent suits is the District's intransigent refusal adequately and expeditiously to expand its prison capacity. Over ten years ago, Judge Bryant listed the litany of constitutional abuses at the old D.C. Jail including overcrowding, integration of sentenced and unsentenced residents, lack of classification programs for determining the level of security needed for unsentenced residents, and numerous violations of building codes, plumbing codes, housing regulations, health regulations, food regulations, and fire codes. Campbell v. McGruder, 416 F. Supp. 100 (D.D.C. 1975). Yet, despite the Court's findings and subsequent orders, the deplorable conditions persisted. Six months after his ruling, Judge Bryant found that "defendants have failed to take reasonable and obvious steps to alleviate overcrowding." Campbell v. McGruder, 416 F. Supp. 111 (D.D.C. 1976). Nine years later, despite the construction of a new D.C. Jail, Judge Bryant was forced to conclude that the District's cavalier attitude still had not changed:

 
Time and time again, defendants have requested the court to defer to their accumulated wisdom, to stay its hand, to give them more time. Time and again, these requests have been honored in the hope and expectation that defendants would solve these problems expeditiously and effectively. However, instead of matters improving they have deteriorated.

 Campbell v. McGruder, Civil Action No. 71-1462, Memorandum and Order at 50 (D.D.C. July 15, 1985) (emphasis added). See generally S. McConville, A Review of the Correctional Policies of the District of Columbia 33-44 (1986) (detailing the "damming and disturbing list of deficiencies" in the D.C. Jail, including gross overcrowding, unhygienic and inadequate washing and sanitary facilities, lighting and vent difficulties, rodent and insect infestation, and deficient medical and dental care).

 The recent litigation involving the District's Central Facility at Lorton reveals a similarly bleak cycle of dismal conditions, disregarded court decrees, and duplicative contempt citations. On August 1, 1988, the interminable overcrowding, fires, and riots at Central lead Judge June Green to order a population cap on the prison. Twelve John Does v. District of Columbia, Civil Action No. 80-2136 (D.D.C.). Judge June Green ordered, inter alia, (1) that no additional inmates be admitted to the District of Columbia's Central Facility at Lorton after August 8, 1988, (2) that by September 1, 1988, the population at Central must be reduced by at least 150 inmates, and (3) that the population at Central must be reduced every 30 days thereafter by at least 150 inmates until the population reaches 1,166 inmates, the ceiling imposed upon Central under a 1982 consent decree. That order was promptly stayed pending appeal by the Court of Appeals. On September 29, 1988, however, following full briefing and argument, the Court of Appeals vacated the stay and affirmed Judge Green's order.

 Over the past decade, the federal government has made abundant efforts to help the District alleviate its prison crisis. The Attorney General has persuaded Congress to obtain funding appropriated for new District prison facilities, located and tendered federal sites within the District for a new prison, and provided the District with a sophisticated analysis of modular facilities vendors and offered the District the technical assistance necessary to place the modular facilities on appropriate sites. Memorandum of Points and authorities in Support of Plaintiff's Motions for Temporary Restraining Order and for Preliminary Injunction, exhibits A, B, and J.

 In addition, when faced with the District's unresponsiveness to the overcrowding crisis and numerous court orders, the Attorney General has, on occasion, temporarily ceased designating the District's correctional facilities as places of confinement for prisoners convicted in Superior Court and designated federal prisons in their place. On August 21, 1985, acting pursuant to D.C. Code § 24-425, the Deputy Attorney General advised the Mayor that, as an interim solution, the Attorney General would designate federal prisons for all the District's sentenced prisoners. *fn1" The Government's offer of assistance was conditioned upon the District's immediate construction of modular facilities and its taking all other necessary steps to relieve the crisis. Id., exhibit B. Five months later, when the District had failed to fulfill its promises, the Deputy Attorney General announced that the Department of Justice would stop taking all D.C. prisoners into federal custody. Nevertheless, after the July, 1986 riot at Occoquan, the Attorney General again came to the District's rescue and took 300 D.C. prisoners into federal facilities.

 It is in light of this history of the District's lax effort to deal effectively with its two-decade-old prison crisis that the current action must be viewed. In a calculated attempt to "comply" with Judge Bryant's and Judge Green's Population caps, the District has now locked its prison doors, flagrantly reneging on its agreement with the Attorney General to solve responsibly the District's Overcrowding crisis by expanding its facilities. The District now maintains that, pursuant to D.C. Code § 24-425, the Attorney General must assume physical custody of, and provide long-term housing for, the prisoners designated to D.C. facilities whom the District turns away. The United States counters that, pursuant to the same D.C. Code section, responsibility lies with the District to house the prisoners in District facilities, whether or not they ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.